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Monday Kickback: Week 29

Quakes fighting to stay above playoff line

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Earthquakes got their manager back after a three-match suspension just in time for the final playoff run. Let’s see what happened in the last week.

Grueling Week On the Road

The Quakes traveled to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday then flew to New York to face New York City FC on Saturday. They also had a depleted roster as several players were either away for international duty or had just returned. Either way, the Quakes were not able to get points in either match and are now in an all-out war for their playoff lives.

On Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Quakes could not get close enough to Nick Rimando’s goal to get a threating shot off. RSL did a great job of sitting in their end and letting the Quakes try to find the gaps in their defense. That is one part of the game the Quakes have struggled to do in Matias Almeyda’s system. As has been the case in the Almeyda era the Quakes led in possession and passes, but unusually could not find the space to get a game-tying (or winning) shot on goal.

On Saturday in New York with their manager back on the sidelines after serving a three-match suspension, the Quakes once again dominated the possession and number of passes. The Quakes also outshot their opponent as they have been known to do all season but still left the Big Apple with no points to show for their efforts. NYCFC didn’t allow the Quakes to get near Sean Johnson’s goal with over half of their 15 shots coming from outside the 18-yard box. That is not a good number for a team that has scored 32 of their 49 goals inside the 18.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Playoff Chase Gets Closer

With four matches left in the 2019 MLS regular season the San Jose Earthquakes are in the middle of one of the most brutal playoff races in recent memory. That makes last weeks two losses on the road that much harder to swallow, but at the moment the Quakes are still in a good spot in the table. They currently sit in sixth place with 44 points right about the Portland Timbers who at 43 points now occupy the seventh and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The bad news for the Quakes is that each one of those games is against teams currently in the playoffs in either the East or West. The “good” news is that two of those are in the friendly confines of Avaya Stadium where the Quakes currently hold a 10-3-2 record.

Next up Atlanta United

After a tough week where the Quakes traveled across the country to take on a Western Conference rival and the best team in the Eastern Conference, you would think the soccer gods would take pity on a team that had worked so hard to transform themselves over one season. The soccer gods are a confusing bunch though, instead of having pity they are instead sending Pity and several of his friends. If last week’s leg of the road trip was not grueling enough, the Quakes now head South to Atlanta to face Pity Martinez, Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco and the rest of the battering ram that is Atlanta United. The Five Stripes are 10-2-3 at home, sit in third place in the East, and have already punched their ticket to the 2019 playoffs. They have lost their last two matches including losing 3-1 at home last Saturday to Columbus Crew but are still a dangerous opponent. Josef Martinez has scored at least one goal in his previous 14 matches, and this is another recent arrival to MLS that the Quakes have yet to beat. As I stated above the Quakes are in a desperate battle to keep their playoff hopes alive and no matter how difficult the opponent seems they are going to have to find a way to leave Mercedes-Benz stadium with at least one point.